Pinkerton roars in tune-up
Bedford quarterback James Caparell throws under pressure from Merrimack's Jordan Miranda (27) and Conor Griffin on Friday in Bedford. The host Bulldogs won, 33-8. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
NASHUA - Pinkerton of Derry quarterback Sean Conroy passed for three touchdowns while tuning up the air attack, and the Astros defeated Nashua South, 40-20, in a playoff preview at Stellos Stadium Friday night.
The Division I foes meet again next Saturday in Derry as No. 2 seed Pinkerton (7-1) hosts No. 3 seed Nashua South (5-3) in the semifinals. The Purple Panthers have plenty of homework to prepare for Pinkerton's high-powered offense.
Conroy, a strong-armed senior, scrambled and flicked a 39-yard touchdown pass to running back Manny Latimore as the Astros pulled away in the fourth quarter. Andrew Ong and James Toohey also had touchdown receptions as Conroy racked up 121 yards passing.
Neither team played conservatively in a warmup game for next week.
"There was no way we were going to sit anybody or rest anybody or do something we don't normally do," Pinkerton coach Brian O'Reilly said. "We had to win (for home-field advantage), and you can't take a game off with teenagers because they'll get complacent. We played this game as hard as we possibly could."
Pinkerton scored pair of touchdowns in a span of 26 seconds during an explosive second quarter. Conroy, on a rollout, fired a scoring strike to tight end Andrew Ong to snap a 7-7 contest.
On Nashua South's ensuing drive, Pinkerton defensive lineman Phil Harper recovered a Trevor Knight fumble deep into Panthers' territory. Four plays later, Manny Latimore darted 12 yards into the end zone. Kyle Cantalupo booted the extra point to give the Astros a 20-7 lead before halftime.
Earlier, Pinkerton constructed an 18-play, 81-yard drive to open the scoring. Conroy passed to Chris St. Onge to bring the Astros inside the 5-yard-line, and Matt St. Onge rushed twice up the middle to finish the drive.
Nashua North, limited to one possession in the first quarter, didn't move across midfield until Steve Choate's 48-yard run in the second quarter. Pat Goff put the Panthers on the scoreboard, rushing four yards and diving into the end zone pylon with 7:45 remaining before the half.
Big-play Choate (134 yards rushing) opened the third quarter with another long run, a 45-yarder, setting up no-huddle Nashua South with a quick strike. Knight scored on a 5-yard QB keeper, and Ryan Guidaboni's PAT trimmed the Pinkerton lead to 20-14.
Conroy again gave the Astros breathing room, lofting a 49-yard touchdown pass to James Toohey that made it 26-14.
"That was probably the most I passed in my Pinkerton career," said Conroy, who completed seven of 11 passes. "We definitely want to stay diverse. Everyone knows how good Manny is and our other backs, so it was nice to come and throw the ball a little more in big situations."
Conroy improvised on his third TD pass and got some help from Latimore, who served as a safety valve on the play
"My primary receiver wasn't open, and I knew I was going to have to eat it or make something happen. I turned around and saw Manny, who has great speed. He caught it and did the rest of the work," Conroy said.
The teams swapped rushing TDs late in the fourth quarter, with Knight scoring for South and Dan Lannan capping the scoring with a 25-yarder.
Pinkerton (9-1 overall) is ranked No. 2 in the New Hampshire Union Leader/WGIR/WMUR Power Poll, while Nashua South (6-4 overall) is ranked fifth.